Selfishly Selfless

A common question everyone should ask themselves in one form or another has plagued me for the past year; Should I be selfless or selfish? I don’t particularly mean the day to day decisions we make to benefit either the population or ourselves but instead the big ones that affect the course of our lives. Take the enlightenment as an example. Without it, humanity would not be where it is today. The rate at which we progressed intellectually would arguably be severely diminished without such a movement. However who is to say that the enlightenment was in the right. In other words, did the philosophers who sparked this movement have the right to enlighten those they deemed unenlightened?

A small scale example: If I were to meet someone who was hiding some part of themselves or refusing to acknowledge a trait they possess, do I have the right to expose them to what I believe to be true? Do I have the right to tell them that they will live happier in the end having understood another part of themselves? Or do I leave them be to their own devices in hopes they arrive to the same conclusion void of any delusions. Finally, who am I to say that my conclusion is the right one. Should I be selfless or selfish: Should I attempt to better others based on my understanding or wash my hands of such a responsibility and focus on myself?

Now reverse the roles and try to answer the same question. If someone made you deal with a part of you that you didn’t particularly understand or are afraid of and told you it will all work out, would you want such an experience? This time around the answer isn’t so clear cut. In the previous thought experiment, the decider isn’t affected and the answer is mostly based on his or her moral system. However now the decider is also the one who is affected and the question becomes difficult to answer. Here I imagine we would see contradictions that would reveal the true nature of how we feel about this topic. Personally, I’ve bounced to and from both ends of the spectrum many times and it remains unclear to me where I will land. However I believe, such a question should be asked consistently to understand ones own motivations in life. Where do you stand?

I leave you with two very well known quotes.

“Ignorance is bliss.”

“Knowledge is power.”

Image: Weimar Court of the Muses – Theobald von Oer. ~1860

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